Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Who's There?

Reminds me of the 'maverick' Episcopal clergyman from the 1960s, Malcolm Boyd, who sat on tall stools in Sixties coffeehouses and read poetry and other meditations.

Boyd hit the scene with Are You Running with Me, Jesus?, which was NOT a book about jogging.

As I sit in offices layered with stuffed bookcases, I think of how many books there are on so many different sides of issues - not just TWO sides of things - could be 3 sides or 4 sides.

Another side to the "Are you there?" controversy is the late Dr. Francis Schaeffer's The God Who Is There. Some of us might have thought, fleetingly, that Schaeffer was just 'begging the question' on God's existence based on the insufficiency of other widely-held worldviews grounded in modernity, such as deconstruction, absurdity, plurality of 'personal truths', etc. Nonetheless, Francis and Edith Schaeffer set up a popular working retreat in Huemes, Switzerland, called L'Abri, where Evangelical dropouts could go pray for answers to prayer, while they studied with this professional philosopher who had dropped out of religious liberalism.

What kind of dry fleece could they craftily set out for God to trick Him into answering their prayers?

The problem of pain and suffering is one of the classical problems of theodicy, and as more and more folks are globally aware (missionaries have been globally aware for millennia) of the depth and expanse of human suffering, the reflections become even MORE poignant, particularly when we consider priorities in the allocation of scares resources - but isn't that how economics is often defined: the quantitative social science of dealing with scarcities - real and presumed, temporary and long-term?

Those of us who have been sensitized to the nature of suffering as pervasive through ALL of sentient life realize that mere palliation is not the total answer. I was pharmacy students on the hoof, parading past my Huntington Avenue windows all day long, but the problem of suffering is not merely about aging and injury, nor about humans alone. Whether we call it 'structural inefficiences' or whatever, agency - human wills/volition - and action from that volition - are often set in motion so that real suffering occurs, not only in the agents, but also in both overt victims and unintended victims.

We KNOW that WE are there, but we're still quibbling about how MANY of us and which of us are morally significant enough to consider... reflectively, ethically.


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